DON’T look now, but Andray Blatche may be back in the Philippines soon, not with Gilas Pilipinas but with the NLEX Road Warriors.
On Thursday, head coach Boyet Fernandez bared the franchise is considering the Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player to beef up the Road Warriors for the mid-season PBA Commissioner’s Cup shortly after the team was eliminated by Alaska in the Philippine Cup playoffs.
“We are thinking about that. But we have to ask SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) first,” Fernandez disclosed to reporters following the Road Warriors’ 82-78 setback to the Aces.
The Commissioner’s Cup offers lower-ranked teams the option to tap imports of unlimited height, making Blatche a possible choice for the Road Warriors.
The 6-foot-11 Blatche, who last played for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, suited up for Gilas as the team's naturalized player in the last FIBA-World Cup in Spain, emerging as the team's best player and one of the tournament's most consistent performers.
Fernandez, however, admitted doing it is easier said than done, citing the previous case of naturalized player Marcus Douthit who had to be passed on by other teams before he could sign with the ballclub that wants him.
Blatche also won't come cheap since he was paid in seven figures - dollars, that is - for his stint with Gilas in the Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games, which he eventually had to sit out due to eligibility issues.
Blatche is currently playing in China and could even draw interest from NLEX's sister teams in Talk ‘N Text and Meralco which are also under the Manny V. Pangilinan group.
“But I know there is a rule na i-rereto muna sa ibang teams. Eh kung ibibigay sa ibang teams, hahanap na lang ako ng iba,” said Fernandez.
Regardless, Fernandez said the Road Warriors will be looking at an import who will be a big help inside to veteran Asi Taulava, the Road Warriors’ lone big man.
“We are looking at a European or US born (import). We want a European because he is quick, can shoot, and play the post, or an American who can play in the post and a little bit of the wing,” said Fernandez.
“We’ll burn the lines to see who we can bring three weeks before the conference,” he added